An AmeriControversy for Linda Chorney

Linda Chorney scored herself a well-earned Grammy nomination, in what could prove to be the award ceremony’s biggest kerfuffle since Milli met Vanilli. (Photos by Danny Sanchez)

“I am Occupying the Grammys — I am the 99%,” Linda Chorney told Christopher Morris in a story that currently appears on Variety.com. “I’m the middle-class that got a friggin’ shot, and I got in there.”

Last we looked in on Chorney, the Beantown-bred, Sea Bright-seasoned singer and songwriter was conducting a public-welcome video shoot at the now-defunct NovelTeas in Red Bank — a call keyed to her playfully provocative tune “Tea Bag Party People,” and a happening that drew a spirited response from the redder banks of the greater Green.

Although it’s posted for perusal online, the finished track would fail to be stocked inside Emotional Jukebox, Chorney’s self-released, self-distributed release of 2011, and a project that, as its title suggests, mood-swings its way through pop, folk, country, R&B, a fully arranged chamber symphony, classic rock covers — and Americana.

Which is a good thing, too, because when the 54th Grammy Award nominations were announced recently by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Emotional Jukebox was right there on the list alongside Kanye, Katy and Kid Cudi.

How the “local” record — which, despite the contributions of people like Letterman bassist Will Lee remains an obscurity with no in-store distribution — came to be a candidate for Best Americana Album is one of the most fascinating stories ever to emerge from Grammyland, even as it continues to put a bee in the bonnet of many in the Americana music establishment.

Yes Virginia, there IS such a thing as the Americana music establishment — the Nashville-based Americana Music Association, to be precise — which, despite having only been given a stand-alone Grammy category two years ago, is already showing signs of becoming one of the more stodgy and sclerotic subgenres in the fragmented musical landscape of the twenty-teens.

In other words, they didn’t even see fit to congratulate Chorney (who’s not an official member of the trade association) on the nomination, whether by personal greeting or public forum.

Whether or not Emotional Jukebox falls within the fuzzy boundaries of Americana is a reckoning best left to Grammy voters, that shadowy cabal that famously ignored Bob Marley, Diana Ross and The Who in favor of Starland Vocal Band, Baha Men and the ever-elegant Milli Vanilli.

What’s more clear is that Chorney — at age 51, the youngest nominee in a field that includes serial Grammy winners Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm and Lucinda Williams — has engineered a pretty astonishing feat of guerrilla marketing that’s as baffling to the old guard as it is perfectly legal (and howlingly entertaining to contemplate).

As detailed in the excellent Variety article, Chorney and husband/ manager/ commodities broker Scott Fadynich did it all from their Sea Bright home, “taking her mission directly to voters, employing the peer-to-peer function of the Recording Academy’s own site for members, Grammy 365.”

Submitting her album for consideration in eight different categories, the artist who sold a mere 15 copies of her previous release managed to get the interest of some 2000 potential listeners among the NARAS voting community — enough of whom were sufficiently smitten with the cheeky unknown’s music to leave one member of the AMA’s board muttering, “I don’t really know what’s going on.”

Chorney, who in between playing the bars, bookstores and boutique hotels of the Upper Wet Side has taken part in high-profile projects by Holiday Express and the Light of Day Foundation, has also managed to perform within every continent on Earth — making her a potential front-runner for the all-new category of Antarcticana, should that one ever come up.

While it’s tantalizing to imagine this 30-year music biz underdog wresting a statuette from the stiffening fingers of the establishment when the Grammys are given out on February 12, it’s a more likely scenario to imagine an Academy board, shaken by the notion that any social media-savvy go-getter could conceivably do an end run around what remains of the music industry, tightening the rules on such behavior — a Linda’s Law, by way of legacy.

Our take is that we’re rooting for this transplanted daughter of the Shore, even in the face of her inconvenient support for the Boston Red Sox. In a business that too often often forgets all the game-changing careers that hinged upon one little lucky break, the disarmingly youthful and energetic Chorney continues to use her mischievous intelligence, prime-cut chops, good cheer and sense of humor to inject some boundary-busting life into a corner of the marketplace that’s been too busy building handsome coffins around itself to acknowledge its own future.

And if that doesn’t rate some kind of Grammy, then make sure to let the dogs back in before you turn out the kitchen light.

Emotional Jukebox is available at a special limited-time discount price from CD Baby, and can also be found on Amazon.com and iTunes. The 54th Grammy Awards will be broadcast live on CBS from LA’s Staples Center on February 12, 2012 — and be sure to follow Chorney’s own very entertaining blog on her website for real-time updates on the singer’s incredible journey.


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